Editors' Choice

Don't Dread the Dread, Mon

by Jennifer Wells

It really does make the world go 'round.

I have a theory, supported by a great deal of data, that Western women lose 20-30 IQ points in the presence of a beautiful African man with dreadlocks. When the dreads are accompanied by good teeth, she can lose up to 40 points. Depending on how smart she is to begin with, this can be a real problem.

My first Rasta experience was in a club in Harare’s city center. My friend Munya and I had come to see Oliver Mtukudzi perform, and the place was packed. Munya went off to buy beers, and I was left alone.

“Hey, WOOOMAAAN, wot are you doing in my countreeee?” He was by my side the instant Munya left, and he was shockingly good looking. Tall. Broad shoulders. Beautiful dreads. Not the clumpy, nasty ones that provide sustenance for single-celled organisms, but nice, thin, well-kept ones. And then, of course, the teeth. Knowing my personal weakness, I tried to avert my eyes, but it was the deer in the headlights phenomenon. I just couldn’t look away.

“Is Zimbabwe your country?”

“Yes, mon.”

“Then why are you speaking in a Jamaican accent?”

“I’m a Rastafarian, this is how we speak. My name is Kudakwashe – it means 'God’s Will'.”

I would soon find out that the Jamaican accent was very popular among guys with dreads in Zimbabwe. This bothered me. There’s no need to change the sound of your voice based on your beliefs. That’s just silly. However, if you insist on making the change, at least get it right. Haile Selassie, aka Ras Tafari, was Ethiopian, not Jamaican. These guys are mimicking Bob Marley, which is just shear laziness. Try a little harder, that’s all I’m saying.

Kudakwashe wouldn’t give up his accent, despite my clever arguments.

“Was dat your husband?”

“No.”

“Why don’t you come to my house, mon, I want to show you my art.”

So here’s a guy speaking in a fake accent, who doesn’t know that his spiritual guru was Ethiopian, and who wants to show me his ‘art.’ I’m no fool. I know that ‘art’ equals penis. I know this guy is a player, and is only hitting on me because I’m a wealthy foreigner. But I can’t seem to wipe this stupid grin off my face. I tell myself that he might be the exception to the rule. After all, not every man with dreads in the city of Harare is bad news. Perhaps I’ve found the one sweet, decent, if slightly dim, Rastafarian. Yes, he’s different from the others, and it’s possible we’ll be very happy together.

I was still basking in the glow of Kudakwashe’s teeth when Munya returned with the beers. Munya is a sweet man who always has a smile on his face. But he shot this guy a look of pure hatred. The Rasta scurried away.

“I know that guy, he’s always hitting on White women.”

“Oh, you know Kudakwashe?”

Munya burst out laughing. “His name’s not Kudakwashe, its Brian. What’s wrong with you White girls? You’re all so smart and educated, but you fall for the Rasta game every time.”

Right. That was embarrassing. No more Rastas for me. I’m too smart for that. I shall not be fooled again.

A couple of weeks later Munya and I went dancing at a different club, on the outskirts of town. We’d been there a couple of hours, we’d both had a few, and we were having a blast. He went to buy round 4; I continued to shake my groove thang.

“How do you do that?” said the handsome non-dread-locked man, who appeared the second Munya left.

“Do what?”

“Dance like an African woman.”

I would have married the guy and turned over my life savings to him right then and there had Munya not returned with our drinks and interrupted the magical moment. I was over the moon. Me, dancing like an African? There was simply no greater compliment possible. I had made it. I could shake my ass like a local. I was hot!!

I sailed through the next week, reliving the glorious moment and trying to figure out which of my many dance moves were the most African. It dawned on me that I couldn’t possibly be the boring Anglo-Saxon mutt my parents insisted I was; could it be that I had African-American blood in me? Thereby explaining why I was inexplicably drawn to Zimbabwe? Yes, it was all starting to make sense.

Despite his hacking cough and 102 degree temperature, I dragged Munya out dancing the following Friday, insisting that as a medical professional I knew what was best for him. There was another White chick at the club, which I tended to frown upon because it diluted my novelty value. She evidently felt the same way, because we stuck to opposite ends of the dance floor the entire night. I’m embarrassed to admit that I always felt a bit competitive towards other White women in these situations. I asked myself a series of questions each time. Was I the better dancer? Undoubtedly, especially after last week’s confirmation. Was I better looking? Too close to call. She had lovely long, blond hair, but it seemed a bit too blond, if you know what I mean. Was I with a better guy? For sure, because Munya is hot and she was with, oh dear, a Rasta. That knocked her out of the running completely, poor thing. I then felt secure in my title of “coolest white chick” and forgot about her until the end of the night. I nearly bumped into her on my way to the toilet, and it was then that I heard the words which caused my world to come crashing down:

“You dance like an African woman.” And they were directed at her! Not me! Her!

Any idiot could see that she had no rhythm and danced like a chicken. It was obviously nothing more than a pick-up line. And I had fallen for it, as she undoubtedly would. I had to face the truth. I couldn’t dance. I was a British-Luxembourger, not African-American. And I was gullible. These guys were tricky, dreads or no dreads. I would have to raise my game.


Jennifer Wells Jennifer Wells is a freelance writer and occasional public health professional. Her great loves are travel and conversation, usually over a beer. Or two. She’s found mainly in Los Angeles and Johannesburg, but her heart is in Zimbabwe. She is writing a book about the lighter side of friendship and life in Harare. This story won the Silver Award for Funny Travel in the Second Annual Solas Awards and was published in The Best Travel Writing 2008.

About Editors' Choice:
Every week we choose one of the great stories we've received from travelers around the world and present it here as our "Editors' Choice." For more about the editors, see About Travelers' Tales Staff.




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